Oprah’s “aha moment” is overused but in this case, it applies. I was holding my firstborn in my arms in the hospital. As he struggled and fussed a bit, I held this tiny life and thought, “Oh, shit.”Not your typical new mother response, eh?
Of course not because I didn’t love him or think he was the best thing to come into this world in a long time. Because I realized I had been cracked wide open the moment he entered my life. My heart no longer had any armor. I was wide open.
“Slow down!” I admonished my husband, as he drove us home from the hospital. I believe he was driving all of 25 mph in a 45 mph zone. As my son’s little head bobbed and rolled in his car seat, I frantically tried to keep it upright. I cursed the other cars zooming by. Did they not know the most precious thing to hit this earth was strapped into this tiny Honda Civic?
I was calmer with my second son, but my heart was no less affected. As he smiled angelically at passersby from his stroller, I scowled if they did not coo and smile back. Don’t break his little heart, I thought. Show him this is a friendly place.
What no one told me was that it would not end. That as they got older, I would hurt just as much as they did when things went awry for them. The birthday party invitation that did not come. The teacher who was less than kind and positive. The best friend who moved away.
And the worst, when they bring pain onto themselves. When they make the less than wise choice and have to pay the consequences for not doing the right thing. Oy. It’s hard to watch. Harder still to feel, as a mother, because my instinct is to shelter them.
And yet, just as I entered that Great Wide Open when they were born, they must enter it and learn how to thrive in buffeting winds. They must navigate how to be resilient enough to emerge from less than ideal circumstances, if not unscathed, at least wiser for the wear. They are my children but they are old souls. And I do them a disservice if I try to put off the lessons they have come here to learn, the experiences they have come here to have.
As I become wiser, “Oh shit” has morphed into “Bring it, world.” My faith in us trumps conventional wisdom. And yet, the tug on my heartstrings each time they begin a new adventure does not subside.
Evangeline Paterson put it best:
A Wish for My Children
On this doorstep I stand
year after year
to watch you going
and think: May you not
skin your knees. May you
not catch your fingers
in car doors. May
your hearts not break.
May tide and weather
wait for your coming
and may you grow strong
all webs of my weaving.